Primus, Hedgpeth Festival, Twin Lakes, WI- 7/29
It seems that Les Claypool can’t get enough on his plate these days. In a summer that saw the busy bassist tour in support of a new solo album, fiddle about to various festivals, write a book, and direct a film, Claypool still found time to squeeze in a one-off show with Primus on July 29th at the first annual Hedgpeth Festival.
Nestled in between several Wisconsin cornfields in the middle of nowhere, Hedgpeth 1.0 boasted a lineup constructed from a variety of indie/alternative rockers, including Kings of Leon and the Flaming Lips. For two days, a couple thousand fans wandered in the heat and humidity among four stages, hoping to catch some promising new act, or simply to hang out and enjoy the music. It appeared, however, that Primus was the sole attraction for most fans on Saturday, as most of the ground’s stages were sparsely attended until the hour drew near for the second night’s headliner. With fans streaming down to the main stage, two twenty-foot rubber ducks were slowly inflated on stage after sound-check, flanking the power trio’s equipment. I guess this was as good a signal as any that the show was about to begin.
Launching into the set with a pounding version of “To Defy the Laws of Tradition,” Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde, and drummer Tim Alexander showed no signs of rust after exactly 9 months off the road (their last appearance being the Vegoose Festival on 10/29/05). The hour and a half set featured a heavy smattering of older Primus material, most notably several selections from their 1990 debut album Frizzle Fry, including “Groundhog’s Day” and “The Toys Go Winding Down.” The small, but determined crowd was obviously thrilled to catch the year’s only (as of yet) tour date, and they lavishly ate up the band’s seminal style.
The Primus sound is indeed a unique one, but not only due to Claypool’s hammering bass. Spraying his trademark guitar all over the set, LaLonde (who relies almost exclusively on quirky distortions and feedback, and amazingly, makes it fit perfectly) painted a psychedelic web of chords and sounds on “Southbound Pachyderm,” and echoed an eerie, siren-like tone before the group marched into the foreboding “Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweekers.”
Claypool’s individual playing was also a pleasure to watch, as he extended what used to be four to five minute slugfest ditties into epic, bridged explorations with precise, slapping solos (it was obvious that all that jamming with the Frog Brigade and Oysterhead is really starting to rub off on him). Not to lose sight of Primus’ head-banging roots though, Claypool quickly pulled out his six-string bass (“this is when things start to go downhill,” he noted to the crowd) for a heavy rendition of the neo-metal classic “My Name is Mud,” and the set finale of “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.”
If this does happen to be the only Primus show of the year, most of those in attendance would agree that it was a fine one, indeed. Hard-hitting, forceful, and at times wonderfully nonsensical it was all of the things a Primus show should be. But who knows, maybe Les will find another tiny gap in his otherwise bustling schedule to pencil-in another date. It seems he has an inclination to keep very busy.